Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 45
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
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PROVING HIS WORTH: Princeton High sophomore star Paul Ehrenworth controls the ball last Friday as fifth-seeded PHS topped No. 2 Pennington in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Ehrenworth, a Hun School transfer, contributed a goal and an assist in the victory.

PHS Boys’ Soccer Repeats as MCT Champs, Now Primed to Make State Tournament Run

Bill Alden

Heading into early October, the Princeton High boys’ soccer team was sailing along, brimming with confidence.

The Little Tigers brought a 7-0 record into critical mid-season contests against undefeated WW/P-N and tough Steinert.

Getting a wake-up call, PHS went scoreless on the week, falling 2-0 to WW/P-N on October 7 and 1-0 to Steinert three days later.

PHS senior defensive star Will Slade acknowledged that the team was humbled by those setbacks.

“I think we were pretty high confidence-wise; we really got brought down by those losses,” said Slade.

“We kind of got blind-sided by those teams. We thought we played better but at the end of the day, a goal is a goal and that decides the game. We just weren’t ready for it.”

The Little Tigers were ready to make a statement later in the month when the Mercer County Tournament rolled around. Fifth-seeded PHS breezed to wins in the opening two rounds and found still-undefeated and top-seeded WW/P-N waiting for it last Wednesday in the MCT semifinals.

Slade and his teammates were primed for round two with the Northern Knights.

“Being a No. 5 seed, we felt pretty disrespected,” said Slade. “This team ran over us the last time. We really came out looking for revenge.”

With Slade lofting a towering free kick that Sam Kotowski headed into the goal with minutes left in double overtime, PHS pulled out a scintillating 2-1 win over WW/P-N.

Two days later, PHS didn’t need any late heroics as it blanked No. 2 Pennington 2-0 to earn its second straight MCT crown.

Sophomore Paul Ehrenworth, a transfer from the Hun School, was a key player for PHS in the championship game, scoring a goal in the first half and then setting up Kotowski for a second half goal that iced the contest.

The recent insertion of Ehrenworth into the line-up, who sat out 30 days under state rules for transfers, has given the Little Tigers a jolt as he has already scored seven goals and had six assists.

Ehrenworth, for his part, was chomping at the bit to get into action for PHS.

“I definitely wanted to get into the games,” said Ehrenworth, who played for Hun last year in the MCT semis as it was eliminated by PHS.

“I practiced every day with them. As soon as I was allowed to play, I wanted to make the most of it.”

Ehrenworth made the most of his early chance last Friday against scrappy Pennington.

“Chris [Bechler] threw the ball and then it was kind of a scramble in the box,” recalled Ehrenworth. “I think one of their defenders headed it up and it just dropped down to me and I kicked it in.”

In the second half, Ehrenworth got a big kick out of setting up Kotowski.

“They were pressing up because they were down by a goal and there wasn’t much time left,” said Ehrenworth.

“I got the ball pretty much wide open in the middle and I saw Sam, they didn’t have a good mark and he got past their last defender and I slipped it through to him.”

Ehrenworth hasn’t wasted time developing a strong chemistry with Kotowski.

“We have known each other for a good while; we play on the same club team,” said Ehrenworth.

“We know each other. We have been just trying different things in practice and it’s just been getting better and better.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe believes his team has gotten better and better as the season has gone on.

“We are in a rhythm and we need to keep that rhythm going,” said Sutcliffe, whose club improved to 15-2 with the win over Pennington. “We are a different team now than we were earlier in the season.”

The addition of Ehrenworth has helped trigger PHS’ late surge. “He’s a very high level club player and he’s played soccer probably 10 months out of the year for the past eight or nine years,” said Sutcliffe, noting that Ehrenworth was with PHS two seasons ago before his one-year stint with Hun.

“That’s why he’s a great player. He’s such a great kid; we are so happy that he came back. It was like no transition at all; he just came right back in. Paul brings another dimension to our team; everybody loves being on the field with him. He’s such a great team guy; he really believes in the team.”

Sutcliffe believes in his defense which has been spearheaded by Slade and junior goalie Steven Hellstern.

“Will Slade all year long has been playing so well, especially in the past couple of weeks,” said Sutcliffe

“Hellstern proves why he is one of the most noted goalkeepers not only in the area but in New Jersey. It is his birthday. That one vs. one stop against [Nathan] Bruccoleri, that saves the game. It was the same the other night against North. Between Hellstern and Slade, they just kept us in the game in the back.”

Senior striker Kotowski has been keeping PHS in the game up front as he has scored one clutch goal after the other.

“Sam’s performance this season is just unbelievable,” asserted Sutcliffe. “I haven’t seen a player impact as many games with goals and game winners. I have to say that and we have had a lot of good ones.”

Now PHS will turn its focus to the Group III state tournament. Last year, PHS came into the Central jersey sectional top-seeded and undefeated only to lose 3-0 to Neptune in its state tournament opener.

Sutcliffe is confident that this year’s team will have a longer stay in the tourney.

“You have to be focused,” said Sutcliffe, whose team was seeded fourth in this year’s sectional and will have a quarterfinal game at home on November 6 before facing a possible rematch with WW/P-N in the semifinals on November 10. “We are going to play on Monday and Tuesday this week. We are going to try to be healthy and get them prepared to play for the state tournament. I know they can’t wait to play that first game at PHS.”

The Little Tigers fell 3-0 to Lawrenceville on Monday to move to 15-3 on the season with a make-up game slated for November 4 against Allentown.

Ehrenworth, for his part, vows that the Little Tigers will be ready to roll once they get into state tournament play.

“In our locker room, there is 3-0 sign hung up on the wall,” said Ehrenworth.

“We are going to be really pumped up in the states, we are going to make a run.”

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